Canada extends deadline for future fighter proposals

The Government of Canada has extended the March 30 deadline for preliminary proposals for the Future Fighter Capability Project to June 30, in response to industry requests.

Any future fighter must be fully integral to the future North American battlespace. Derek Heyes Photo
The process to replace Canada’s aging fleet of CF-188 Hornets has seen three competitors emerge — Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, and Saab’s Gripen E. Derek Heyes Photo
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The government’s original request for proposals (RFP), issued on July 23, 2019, came after years of debate surrounding how the country would replace the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) fleet of aging CF-188 Hornets. The list of potential suppliers has since been whittled down from five to three during the scrutinized procurement process.

The remaining bidders — Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, and Saab’s Gripen E — are being assessed on elements of technical merit, cost and economic benefits to Canada. The lucrative contract includes the provision of 88 advanced fighter jets, training and sustainment services at a cost of $15 to $19 billion.

According to the government’s original outline, all contenders were required to provide a plan for economic benefits equal to the value of their proposed contract, with maximum points awarded to suppliers who provided contractual guarantees. However, changes were made last May before the final RFP was issued, after the U.S. government reportedly said it would pull the F-35 from the competition if the requirement for industrial benefits was not modified. The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program agreement – signed by Canada – prohibits such a condition.

In response, Canada adopted a phased-bid compliance process that it said is “an additional measure to ensure that bidders will have an opportunity to address non-compliance in their proposals related to mandatory criteria. Following evaluation of preliminary proposals, a dialogue phase may be conducted with one or more compliant bidders to reduce the risk that a proposal is eliminated due to an error or omission.”

Proposals will now be assessed on 60 per cent technical merit, 20 per cent cost and 20 per cent economic benefits.

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“The government set out an aggressive timeline to implement this very complex, high-value procurement, and while we understand the importance of this procurement for our women and men in uniform, our focus is on moving the process forward as quickly as we can, while ensuring that all bidders have the time they need to put forward their best proposal,” said public services and procurement minister Anita Anand of the most recent extension to the preliminary proposal deadline.

Defence minister Harjit S. Sajjan added that the delay will “allow the eligible suppliers to make their best possible offer to ensure that we are able to provide the equipment our members need at a fair cost to Canadians.”

During the 2019 election campaign, the Liberal Party said it would be taking steps towards the creation of Defence Procurement Canada, “to be developed concurrently with ongoing procurement projects and existing timelines,” according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It’s unclear how the formation of the procurement agency would affect the Future Fighter Capability Project moving forward.

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